“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
― Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi
I found the paddling at Chessey Creek one of the most healing elements for virtually every aspect of my life. My heart, my body, my mind, my emotions. I paddled every day. Often I would visit the same small inlet, a sub-creek if you will, off the main vein. It narrowed, felt more intimate and safe. Towards the back of this smaller creek was an eagle. I’d see him perched high in a pine tree, and only once I got directly below him would he fly off. He was a magnificent site.
On many of the trees were hoards of other birds – egrets, white ibis, little blue herons, anahingas. They too, I imagine, felt safe in this small cocoon of a creek.
On this one day, however, I had the most extraordinary experience. I was half way to my turn around point when I saw her on the bank. She sat quietly on a log, not at all frightened by my presence. A large Barred Owl. She looked at me with her golden eyes, tilting her head as if trying to decipher my energy.
My kayak drifted to the log, barely touching it. She would look at me, look at my boat, look back at me as if daring me to come any closer and at the same time I questioned whether she was going to hitch a ride with me. We sat there for several minutes, just staring. I had already had all the experiences of the dead owls that I had been seeing on the roads, I had heard the owls at night as they echoed in the woods. But this one, this one was alive and she was just 4 feet from me.
I began talking to her, asking her why she was here with me – what is her message for me. I talked and talked, she listened and listened. It was such a cathartic moment for me, tears streaming down my face as I realized that the connection in that moment was as strong as any connection I’ve ever had my entire life. She was inside me, speaking to my soul. We didn’t need words, or hoots. We just needed to get out of our way, around the fears.
After many long moments of confessions I noticed something twitching under her talons. It was a small water snake. Still fighting for it’s life. She flew to a branch just above the boat, still with her eyes traced on me, and the snake grasped tightly with her talons.
The next 30 minutes were profound for me on so many levels. I can only imagine that very few people ever have the real opportunity to witness an owl eating a snake not only in real life, but to witness it live from just 5 to 6 feet away is indescribable. From a “wow, this is so cool” moment to a deeper “wow, this message is deep and transforming.” I watched her as she painstakingly ate the snake, forcing it down her throat. She took her time, there was no rush. Neither of us were going anywhere. In that moment, I had all the time in the world to simply be with her. She would close her eyes as she swallowed, only to open them with her gaze still fixated on me, as if she were making sure I was still paying attention.
The snake, a symbol of transformation, sexuality, shedding one’s skin, wisdom. The owl, a symbol of the shadow side, deep wisdom, inner knowing, the divine feminine. The act of eating, being conscious of what you are consuming, be mindful, be diligent, be slow and thoughtful but without hesitation. Keep at it until the job is done. The owl eating the snake – wisdom consuming wisdom. Transformation of being in this world, and then not. Sacrifice and mindfulness – to take unconsciously is a transgression against your soul, but to consume with respect and honor is how one can transcend the separateness that we often feel. The lack of fear from all of us – the owl, me, the snake who had surrendered to his own sacrifice so that I could experience this down-reaching message was still yet another message of surrender.
This experience massaged the underbelly of all that I know but had either forgotten, or grew distant from. It reawakened the part of me that might have become dull and listless, assuming that the magic was always there and therefore no longer magical. I have been doing this work for nearly 30 years now, so few things surprise me anymore which in many ways is good and right, and yet in another more subtle way, it has dulled my own magical moments. Living in the forest for 6 years with so little contact with the exterior world, my days were full of nature immersion. I had grown to expect the magic, the esoteric. Hearing voices in the water, or drums playing when there were no drums – this was my norm. But on this day, in the small little creek with not a sign of humans for miles and miles, I had this moment with this Owl and this Snake and the magic in that experience lifted any lingering veils and etched itself into my heart. I haven’t been the same since.
I took the photo above, it is the best selfie I have ever taken – being photo bombed by my great messenger.
© Dakota Earth Cloud Walker, 2018 All Rights Reserved. No part of these stories or photos may be re-distributed without the express, written permission of the author.